SAN DIEGO — The American Psychological Association (APA) has announced the election of Debra Kawahara, Ph.D., associate dean and distinguished professor at Alliant University’s California School of Professional Psychology, as their next president.

Debra Kawahara

She will be the first Asian American female and first Japanese American to serve as APA president.

The APA is the leading scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the U.S., with more than 146,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants, and students as its members. The vote was open to all APA members, and the results were announced Sept. 19.

Kawahara ran on a platform of UNITY, with the letters symbolizing: Utilizing our science and knowledge to increase the voice and visibility of psychology and APA; Nourishing our global partnerships to work on human rights and justice; Inclusiveness, belongingness, and engagement of all psychologists; Training and educating students and Early Career Psychologists for the future; and “You Matter. APA Matters.”

“I am honored to have been elected to this esteemed position of leading APA,” said Kawahara. “I am also deeply grateful to the members of our association for creating the unity that I have worked towards throughout my career. I am motivated to collectively create inclusive spaces and policies where people feel valued, worthwhile, and are treated with respect and dignity within and beyond APA.”

“We are thrilled with this achievement and know that the APA, and its members, will benefit from Debra’s stewardship,” said Andy Vaughn, president and CEO of the Alliant International University system. “Her leadership in CSPP has been exceptional, we expect nothing less of her leadership in the APA.”

“Her thorough understanding of the opportunities and challenges that face the profession, paired with her extensive experience in APA leadership, uniquely position Debra for success in this role,” said Tracy Heller, Ph.D., provost and executive vice president of academic affairs for Alliant International University. “From her active engagement in APA governance to her dedication to equity and advocacy at all levels, Debra has proven that she can continue to transform the association for the benefit of its members. We look forward to celebrating her impact as APA president.”

Kawahara’s vision is of a “kind, just, equitable, and inclusive world that treats people with respect and dignity. This will require all of us to be leaders with courage and integrity. Together we can strive to build trust, encourage belief in our goals, and inspire passion and commitment in the fulfillment of our association’s mission as we enact an inclusive vision for a better APA and a better world.”

She will have one year to carry out this vision as president of the APA. Her term begins on Jan. 1, 2025.

About Debra Kawahara

Debra M. Kawahara, Ph.D., is associate dean of academic affairs and distinguished professor at the California School of Professional Psychology, Alliant International University. Her responsibilities include managing over 20 programs, including nine APA-accredited clinical psychology programs, four organizational psychology programs, and one APA-designated clinical psychopharmacology program, across six U.S. campuses and previous international sites; conducting and supervising research on multicultural and global/international dynamics, women’s issues, and mental health; and teaching numerous courses. She has also published extensively and has presented at international, national, and state venues.

Kawahara is the recipient of several awards and honors, including the Shining Star Award at the National Multicultural Conference & Summit; APA’s Society for the Psychological Study of Culture, Race and Ethnicity’s Distinguished Career Contributions for Service Award; and APA’s Society for the Psychology of Women, Section on Asian Pacific Islander Women’s Pioneer Award and the Sue Rosenberg Zalk Award.

Kawahara is a multicultural feminist scholar whose work centers on intersectionality, women’s issues, and the application of multicultural and feminist values and social justice principles. She is widely published and has presented extensively. In 2018, she became the editor-in-chief of Women & Therapy.

Her previous leadership roles include being a representative to the APA Council of Representatives for Division 35, an APA Finance Committee member, an Advisory Committee member for the Leadership Institute for Women in Psychology, Divisions on Social Justice representative, lead coordinator (APA Division 45) for the National Multicultural Conference & Summit, and a National Council of Schools and Programs in Professional Psychology delegate.

Within the Society of the Psychology of Women (APA Division 35), she currently serves as the co-chair of the Investment Committee and a member of the Task Force on Racial Equity and Social Justice.

She is a fellow of the APA as well as the Asian American Psychological Association.

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